Game over - virtual drivers blur racing with reality

Article date: 2 March 2007

Britain’s roads are being plagued by a generation of "gameboy racers" who are driving recklessly after playing computersimulation games, new research reveals today.

Over one third (34%) of young male and female drivers confess theyare more likely to drive faster on roads shortly after indulging inon-screen driving action and a quarter (27%) of young drivers admitthey take greater driving risks after a gaming session.

The study, by the UK’s largest driving school, BSM, showsnearly a quarter (22%) of young drivers even claim they haveimagined they’re in a driving simulation game while drivingon the UK’s roads.

With two in five (42%) 16–24 year olds playing drivingsimulation games at least once a week, and 6% of young men playingdaily, the research shows that frequent gamers are almost twice aslikely as less regular players to lose their sense of reality onthe open road (31% and 15%, respectively).

And young men are the worst offenders, with the BSM study findingthey are almost twice as likely as women to blur virtual andon-road driving (27% and 16% respectively).

However, although driving simulation games appear to negativelyaffect the habits of newly qualified drivers, the research alsoindicates that they can be a positive tool for learners.

Indeed BSM uses accredited driving simulators as part of itscomprehensive package of learning tools for young drivers.

Robin Cummins, BSM’s road safety consultant, said:"Accredited driving simulators can be a really useful tool inenhancing driving skills such as observation, confidence andreaction times. And in the case of our simulators, they offer asafe environment for young people to try their hand at drivingbefore they’re 17.

"But it’s important that their use goes hand in hand withreal on-road experience, and drivers should be careful not to getcaught up in a virtual driving world. Making an adrenalin-chargedmove in a game may impact on your score, but doing so on the roadcan carry far greater consequences."

Other findings from the survey include:

  • 54% of frequent players pass their driving test on the firstattempt – compared to 45% of infrequent gamers. 
  • Over one third (34%) of young drivers think that gaming canimprove real-life driving abilities – whilst a combinationof parental and expert instruction is believed to have the mostpositive impact of all (71%).
  • Two in five youngsters (40%) believe their reflex reactionsare likely to be better after playing a driving game.
  • 39% believe gaming helps improve hand-to-eyecoordination.
  • Frequent gamers rate their real-life driving skills at 7.2 outof 10, compared to infrequent gamers’ score of 6.7.

Cummins added: "This study shows an indisputable link betweengaming and dangerous driving and with more than 200 young people*killed each year due to speeding alone, it’s crucial thatthey learn to ‘keep it real’ on the road.

"The most effective way for a learner to acquire good motoringskills is to combine lessons with a professionally-qualifiedinstructor and guidance from parents, or other experienceddrivers."

Gavin Ogden, editor of CVG, the UK's longest running computer gamespublication, comments: "Driving games continue to be enormouslypopular with young British gamers - but although they may be morerealistic than ever, they don't bear much relation to real-liferoad conditions. In fact, some of the most popular motoring gamesactually warn users not to apply any driving techniques from thegame to real life - because the consequences of doing so could befatal."

BSM’s top tips for keeping it real on the road…

  • Take a break between playing a driving game and getting behindthe wheel. Allow at least one hour to make the transition fromfantasy to reality.
  • Being a great driver in real life doesn’t automaticallymake you a gaming champion – so don’t behave likeyou’re King of the Road, just because you’ve achieveda record score in a game.
  • Be aware of the crucial road-skills you need which don't getused in games – proper use of mirrors and indicators willnever win you extra virtual points, but they are critical in reallife driving.
  • Watch your speed. Many driving games condition you to go asfast as possible – in real life, roads and cars are far lessforgiving.
  • Keep a check on reality - enjoy driving simulation games butdo so in lots of shorter intervals, rather than over prolongedperiods.
  • It’s important to have regular eye tests, both beforecommencing learning and after passing your test.


BSM/RAC Press office contact:
Lucy Haughey / JennyChapman on 01603 354337/07800 690149 or 01603 684224/07800 699668or Sonia Clarke / Iain Drennan on 0207 908 6570 or 0207 9086449

Notes to editors:
1,000 16–24 year olds took partin the BSM survey, commissioned through Dubit (February2007).

*According to the DfT Road Casualties Great Britain Report (2005),there were 773 fatalities among 16-29 year olds, 26% of which werecaused by excessive speed.

Young Person Driving Death Statistics (Taken from the AuditCommission’s "Changing Lanes Report")

  • 20% of all drivers involved in accidents are aged under25.
  • Road accidents account for 27% of all deaths in males aged15-24.
  • The average cost to the NHS of a serious injury from a roadaccident is £12,806.
  • One in every 200 deaths occurs on the road.
  • Of 240,000 injuries from road accidents in a year, 25,000 areserious injuries.

About BSM
Founded in 1910, BSM isthe UK’s most experienced national driving school. Each yearit teaches over 160,000 learners how to drive. It has approx. 3,400driving instructors across the UK.

While BSM is best known for teaching learner drivers, it is alsoone of the largest providers of training for driving instructors.It is a founding member of ORDIT (Official Registry of DrivingInstructor Training) and plays an active role in lobbying theGovernment on road safety and learner driver-related issues.

About RAC
With around seven million members, RAC is oneof the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providingservices for both private and business motorists. Whether it'sroadside assistance, windscreen repair and replacement, learning todrive, vehicle inspections and checks, legal and financial servicesor up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able tomeet motorists’ needs. RAC incorporates BSM, RAC AutoWindscreens, RAC Direct Insurance and HPI.

Aviva bought RAC in May 2005. The acquisition brings together RAC'spowerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leadingposition in motor insurance of Norwich Union Insurance (part ofAviva). Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer, insuring one inseven motor vehicles and with a market share of around 14%.

RAC’s news releases and a selection of images are availablefrom the internet press centre at

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